Bad reno buster: Prolific contractor Mike Holmes continues to 'make it right'

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Jacqui Wiens / TV Media
Mike Holmes hosts “Home Free”

Mike Holmes hosts “Home Free”

His name is essentially synonymous with home renovations, and his efforts in advocating for more stringent building standards, as well as promoting the trades amongst young people, earned acknowledgment in the Canadian House of Commons in 2006. Now, prolific contractor and Canadian television host Mike Holmes is taking his commitment to "making it right" even further, with a new reality series entitled "Home Free," airing a new episode Wednesday, July 29, on Fox.

"Home Free" expands on Holmes' storied dedication to giving back and setting things right. It's the contractor's first non-HGTV television series and adds a competitive element to the renovations covered. Holmes leads nine couples through the renovation of eight different rundown houses, in which the couples must live during the overhaul.

Each week, the contestants will move to a new house, where Holmes will assign challenges to test just how much the do-it-yourselfers actually know. He's still the Holmes you know, and he won't keep quiet if someone makes a mistake, but he will be there to teach them and explain what is being done wrong. In each episode, the couple who "didn’t perform up to code" will be eliminated, while the others move to the next house. Eventually, after fixing up several houses and expanding and refining their skills along the way, the final two couples will battle it out for their dream home.

It's been a long road for Holmes to get to this point in his career. While his first TV show, "Holmes on Homes," kicked off on HGTV in 2003, that wasn't even close to the start of his involvement in construction. As young as six years old, Holmes was learning about his future trade from his father, apparently assisting with rewiring a section of his family's home. By 12, Holmes had enough expertise to -- with his father's guidance -- install the plumbing and electrical in his uncle's basement.

When Holmes was 19, he passed two milestones in his life. He married Alexandra Lorex, future mother of his three children, and founded a contracting company despite never having finished high school. With business cards that advertised him as "The F-up Fixer," Holmes seems to have had a focus on fixing poorly renovated or constructed buildings since the early days of his career. Two years later, Holmes expanded his success with a second company.

In his late 20s, things took a turn for the worse. The construction industry and Holmes' business were severely impacted by the recession, forcing him to sell the company and his car. Holmes and Lorex divorced when he was 30, and Holmes' father fell down the stairs to his death just a few weeks later.

So, after losing his company, his wife and his father, Holmes found himself working on HGTV's home renovation show "Just Ask Jon Eakes," building sets. It was there that he met Alliance Atlantis's then-director of studio programming, Michael Quast, and launched into a tirade about shoddy construction work and amateurs thinking they could do renovations on their own.

Contractor Mike Holmes in “Home Free”

Contractor Mike Holmes in “Home Free”

Quast was impressed by Holmes' passion and agreed that the concept would make a good series. One small sticking point came up when Quast wanted Holmes to host the series he had proposed. Holmes insisted he was only a contractor, but Quast eventually convinced him to give it a shot.

It took two years to get enough publicity to find participants for the first season, but "Holmes on Homes" premiered in 2003 and was a phenomenon by the following year. The surge in the housing market was timed perfectly, with home renovation experiencing a new level of popularity and making the show more relevant than ever over its seven-season run.

Following the wrap of his first show, Holmes jetted off to New Orleans to meet up with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's Make It Right Foundation, which had used his trademarked phrase without permission. Rather than antagonizing the Hollywood couple, Holmes brought his crew along to help build the first house the foundation erected in the decimated city, airing the process as a one-season series, "Holmes in New Orleans."

The year 2009 saw the debut of "Holmes Inspection," in which the crew visited already-inspected houses, with Holmes touring the building and documenting any issues that didn't appear on the original inspection. The show included special effects and diagrams to explain what is going on with problems that are either not visual or need extra explanation. After looking over the building, Holmes turned the lead over to his right-hand man, Damon Bennett, who supervised the actual renovation.

In 2012, "Holmes Inspection" wrapped after three years and two seasons. That same year, in Canada, Holmes kicked off a more community-focused renovation show, "Holmes Makes It Right," which took on broader projects. "Holmes Makes It Right" continued the trend "Holmes Inspection" started, making use of visual effects to explain concepts and having Holmes add handwritten notes to explain his thoughts about what happens during the episode.

This brings us to the present, with "Home Free" shaping up to be another one of Holmes' exciting TV projects. Producers have promised plenty of twists and turns for the new competition series, so tune in and see if you could fix up these dilapidated houses when "Home Free" airs a new episode Wednesday, July 29, on Fox.